The Season Gives Reason to Give

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November 11, 2015

Americans spend more than $500 billion each year during the holidays. Yet one of the most valuable gifts a child can receive this time of year is the experience of charitable giving.


Jason Stamm, Private Client Reserve Region President, oversees a team that advises high-net-worth families from Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul to St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. Stamm finds that many clients are striving to shape their family’s legacy around a set of core values. “The holidays are a natural time to inspire other family members to think about giving back,” he says.


Tie Giving to Involvement


Stamm recalls a client who gave his granddaughter the chance to make a small monetary donation as a holiday gift. In order to decide where she wanted to give her money, the young woman, a Milwaukee teen, was required to do preliminary research and visit the organization in person.

“She went online and found out there was an animal shelter in the local community,” Stamm says. She got a tour, where she learned about sheltering dogs, cats and other animals.


The grandparents wanted future generations to recognize the opportunity they had to make a difference in the world. Stamm explains that though that first experience with philanthropic giving was more than 15 years ago, it had lasting results. Now an adult, the granddaughter is on the board of the shelter where she made her first donation.

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November 11, 2015

As kids get older, families can encourage them to do a bit more legwork, says Mike Penfield, Charitable Services Group Managing Director, who coaches families about effective philanthropy. When kids are able to explain why their organization is the best choice, he says, they are also learning to make good investments.


Start with a Share Check


Many families teach philanthropic values by giving each child a “share check”—a check with everything filled in but the recipient. “Any dollar amount works,” says Nathan Dungan, Founder and President of Share Save Spend®.


This organization helps youth and adults link their money decisions to their values and provides resources like Money Sanity U®, a subscription-based virtual video library designed to proactively address the topic of money and the role it plays in people’s lives.




By having children choose who receives the donation, parents empower them to make wise choices about where to give. Here are a couple of ways to involve family members in holiday giving:


  1. Share Check: Through one small check, children can inherit both a desire to give back to their community and the knowledge of how to do it. Children as young as 5 donate the money to a charity of their choice, such as animal shelters and organizations like Toys for Tots. 
  2. Community Foundation: Older children can become more deeply involved in philanthropy. Teens and adult children who receive larger amounts should first investigate their options. One way to do this is by connecting with donor-advised funds at a community foundation, Penfield says. “The program people know about successful community nonprofits and can steer children in the right direction,” he says.


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November 11, 2015

Prepare for the Giving Season


Families might want to explore different giving methods, depending on the age of children and gift amounts. Advance prep will make the most of your experience: 

  • Communicate your plans with other family members.
  • Encourage kids to research their ideas online and via social media. 
  • Have children give the check in person. They can get a tour, see how their gift will make an impact and possibly volunteer.
  • Be sure to follow up so you can share in their enthusiasm.

Multigenerational families can use this time of year to discuss how to incorporate philanthropy into their traditional holiday festivities.


Teaching children about donating to causes they care about reaps many rewards.


A simple act of generosity can instill in the youngest family members a greater appreciation for what they have and yield benefits for years to come.


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More about Share Checks

In addition to the share check video, Nathan Dungan offers other videos to help build healthy money habits on his Money Sanity U® website. Each video offers unique insights, relatable examples and actionable ideas.